Documentary film looks at effects of mine on Attawapiskat – by Tanya Talaga (Toronto Star – October 22, 2015)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

What is it like for a northern First Nations community to live beside a diamond mine?

Documentary filmmaker Victoria Lean zeroes in on what it is like for the Attawapiskat First Nation to be neighbours with the Victor diamond mine in her film After the Last River.

The Victor mine, owned by global mining giant De Beers, is just 90 kilometres west of Attawapiskat, a community in James Bay District that has battled floods, an ongoing housing crisis and a massive diesel spill underneath an old school.

Lean set out to tell a story about the consequences of mining in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the North, and in doing so she unearthed the challenges of a community struggling to exist.

After the Last River screens at the Planet in Focus film festival on Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Q: Why did you decide to do the film?

A: My parents are environmental scientists. I wanted to make this story because my father invited me up, along with Wildlands League, to visit Attawapiskat. They had a diamond mine, the De Beers mine, opening on their traditional territory. The area is profoundly ecologically significant. I didn’t realize it was one of the largest untouched wetlands in the world. The De Beers mine was the first development in the region.

There was a lot of discussion around the economic benefits, but there really wasn’t a lot being discussed on environmental impacts. It is a big mine … and they were dewatering a very pristine wetland. I was interested in talking to community members on balancing economic benefits and environmental impacts.

Q: Your parents’ careers have such an impact on your life. What type of scientists are they?

A: My mother studies algae. When there are algal blooms people call her up. My dad is an ecotoxicologist; he studies toxins in the environment. He has looked at acid rain, ozone depletion, the effect of UV on frogs, and in recent years, in the last decade or so, he’s been looking at the impact of the natural release of mercury and the release of mercury from man made activities into ecosystems; so, how draining wetlands increases mercury into wetlands.
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